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Prepared With Prayer

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In the last two weeks, our nation has gone from the death grips of racism and persecution to the onslaught of natural disaster. Our minds aren’t capable of truly focusing on more than one thing at a time and so we hop back and forth between what for some, is now a memory of Charlottesville weeks ago and the Texas flooding of today. And I’m reflecting on the speed at which our lives take uncertain and sometimes abrupt turns, at the differences between these two events and surprised by the similarities in our responses not in spite of our humanity, but because of it.

After waters recede, the damage left will be evident. Volunteers will come in, ripping out molded carpet and refrigerators packed with rotting food, eventually replaced with something new. And the threat of churning oceans will not be far from our minds. 

After nationwide protesting of white supremacists and arrests made, we’ll replace the news feed with something else, bandaging a wound and leaving it alone in hopes of healing. Something else happens, our minds shift to other matters, unwilling to step into the hard places of healing.

Unless…

Unless as created beings of the Creator, we pause long enough to listen and go to the places that are still bloody after the camera crews leave.

Unless as humans, we wait patiently for the rescues to be made, for water to dry up and those who will lead us are ready for the work that is actually needed.

Unless we as people, Americans, and neighbors will pray and be ready.

Psalm 145:18 “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

 As a Christ follower, I believe I can do no good thing apart from my Savior. And my neighbors need to see the goodness of Christ in me as I work and sweat for restoration and rebuilding. They need to hear the peace of Christ from the words I speak and those I don’t. The need to watch the patience of the Spirit as I wait to provide the right help at the right time. And they will see and hear these things when I am prepared with prayer. When my relationship with the Father is right because I talk to him and even more importantly, I listen to him, others can receive what God would do through me, through the Spirit living in me.

The long term and the comparatively short term work we have ahead of us is tremendous. As a nation, as brother and sisters in Christ, we have much to learn about each other, the truth of our neighbor’s life and our role in it. And after all this rebuilding and righteous redemption, there will be continual work to do.

Will we be prepared with prayer?

 

Convicted and Compassionate

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  • Convict: to impress with a sense of guilt.
  • Compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

I have not always been a compassionate person. I was a lover of justice, and my idea of justice was that people got what they deserved. I actually took great pleasure in seeing justice delivered -- like when that speeding driver who passed me on a double yellow was nabbed by the police a half-mile up the road and I thought to myself, “you got yours!”

On a spiritual gift assessment I took about 10 years ago, I scored very high on, “discernment,” which is literally defined as, “acuteness of judgement,” and very low on, “mercy.” So when, in 2014, God made it clear that He was calling me to minister to inmates in the Hamilton County Jail, I questioned the wisdom of His plan. Discernment without mercy is a recipe for hurting people.

But God did not back down from His plan to send me into the jail. Realizing there was more than one way for Him to get me there, I decided to go willingly. I smugly considered that my, “tough love,” approach might be exactly what the inmates needed to get on the right track.

But God didn’t send me there because of what I could teach them. He sent me there because of what they could teach me.

Compassionate

“T” was 19 years old when I met her, right around the same age as my own daughter. A drug addiction had landed her in jail, where she attended our recovery study.

She told me how her own father showed her how to get high the first time. She was 11 years old. She told me how she had sold whatever she had, even her own body, to feed her and her father’s addiction. What chance did she have?

I longed for her to have another chance to make something of her life. I felt deep sympathy and sorrow for “T,” who was stricken by misfortune. I felt a strong desire to alleviate her suffering.

“T” taught me to be compassionate.

Convicted

Another young lady I met was grieving the death of her young son -- a consequence of her alcohol addiction. The night she shared that difficult burden with me we talked about forgiveness and how, through Christ, anyone can be forgiven of anything. She looked right at me through tear-filled eyes and said, “But I don’t deserve forgiveness.”

I replied, “No, you don’t. Neither do I. Neither does anyone.”

That young, grieving mother taught me the profound meaning of mercy and grace. Through her, I was convicted.

“God paid a ransom to save you…. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. He never sinned...He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.” (I Peter 1: 18-19; 2:22, 24)

Convicted and Compassionate

It was through those women, and many like them, that God convicted me. I had always thought I loved justice, but I really only loved it for other people. For myself, I much preferred grace.

Once convicted, the rehabilitation could happen. God continued to show me the pain and suffering behind their circumstances and I began to see the inmates differently. I looked through their orange or yellow prison-issued shirt to their hurting, broken hearts and I desired so deeply to alleviate their suffering.

They taught me what it means to be convicted and compassionate.

We were ransomed for a reason. We were bought at a very high price, but for a purpose.

“For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” I Peter 2:21

My Prayer

Dear God,

Search me and convict me. Impress upon me a sense of guilt for the suffering of others. Do not let me rest with the knowledge that people are hurting because they don’t know You. Thank you for the mercy and grace you have shown me instead of giving me the justice I deserved.

Make me compassionate. Take my stubborn heart of stone and give me a tender, responsive heart. (Ezekiel 36:26) Fill me with a new spirit and with compassion for the lost, the hurting, and the afflicted. Let me feel their agony so deeply that it becomes my own. Stir in my soul an unwavering desire to alleviate that suffering and share with them the hope of salvation.

Let me follow the example of Christ and to live for what is right.

AMEN

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